The Insider: How to find inspiration

After moving from a small flat to a whole house, I panicked: I had little furniture, no budget and zero direction. Inspiration was clouded by the threat of expensive mistakes and "blank canvas" alarm. So where can one turn for ideas?

Inspiration is everywhere

If you're tuned in, that is. One friend took layout tips from the kitchens in Desperate Housewives, while a bachelor colleague made manly shelves after seeing Steve McQueen's bedroom in Bullitt.

Consult the classics

From one-room living to how to arrange "things" on shelves and walls, Conran's 1970s interiors bible The House Book (Mitchell Beazley) is invaluable.

Make a mood board

By collating photos, fabric scraps (such as the Lucienne Day) and magazine pages, broad themes should emerge (vintage, minimal, lavish, bright, muted, classic). If they don't, ask a friend to edit.

Get out the scissors

Have a look at, where even the DIY-shy can get ideas; the box-file shelving is a personal favourite.

Make use of old favourites

Take a loved picture or object and build a room around its colours, period detail, or simply the feeling it evokes – it's easier than starting with infinite choice. Similarly, follow a loose theme through all rooms. Tricia Guild's A Certain Style (Quadrille) is full of inspiration on this.

Box clever

Efficient storage can free up whole chunks of room, so don't underestimate the creative boost of a flick through the Lakeland catalogue.

Colour co-ordination

Kevin McCloud's books on colour, divided by periods, styles and palettes, are immensely practical.

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at